Brussels, 27 May 2008
Boosting a European Single Labour Market for Researchers: the Commission proposes a new partnership with Member States
In the Communication "Better careers and more mobility: a European Partnership for Researchers ", the European Commission seeks a partnership with Member States to ensure that the necessary human resources are available to sustain and enhance the contribution of science and technology to a knowledge-based European economy. Europe faces growing global competition for the best talents and demographic challenges. The aim of the partnership is to align and focus the efforts of individual Member States. Joint priority actions should make the EU a more attractive place for researchers, and allow researchers to be more mobile between countries, institutions, and between the academic and private sectors. Key areas for action are the systematic opening up of recruitment, meeting the social security and pension needs of mobile researchers, providing fair employment and working conditions, and ensuring that researchers have the right training and skills.
According to European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, "we need to free the potential of our excellent researchers if we are to achieve Europe's wider Lisbon agenda ambitions and make the European Research Area a reality. Too many of them have to wait too long for the chance to become independent researchers in their own right due to outdated national legislation and practices. Our vision is of a "fifth freedom"– the freedom of knowledge, where students, scientists, and academics can take advantage of a healthy European labour market and find opportunities in different institutions, sectors and countries at all stages of their careers. What is at stake is whether Europe can remain and develop as a world-class location for R&D in the long term."
In many Member States, there is still limited competition-based recruitment in the public sector. Short-term contracts are the norm for young researchers and advancement can often be based on seniority not performance. Many researchers are also trained in a traditional academic way which does not equip them for the needs of the modern knowledge economy where connections between industry and public research institutions are increasingly important. Today's researchers may need to manage intellectual property, conduct multi-disciplinary projects or start up their own company.
It is proposed that the partnership should make a commitment to achieving by the end of 2010 rapid, measurable progress to:
Coordinated action in these areas between the Commission and the Member States, alongside renewed efforts on existing initiatives such as the European Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, would help to create a genuine European labour market for researchers. This will balance the supply and demand for researchers, boost productivity growth through better job matching, increase knowledge transfer and facilitate the development of centres of excellence throughout the EU. It will also create better international connections for collaborative research and the economic exploitation of research results, and help to create more attractive conditions for industrial investment in research.
At the end of the first stage of the partnership in 2010 an overall evaluation of the situation and results from actions by the partnership will be made and the need for further EU action to address specific outstanding issues will be considered.
The Communication is one of five policy initiatives planned by the Commission to follow up the 2007 Green Paper "The European Research Area: New Perspectives". The results of the public consultation following the Green Paper suggested that a single labour market for researchers should be amongst the top priorities for action at EU level.
Details of all of the above are available in MEMO/08/343
Link to the full text of the Communication: http://ec.europa.eu/research/press/2008/pdf/com_2008_31_1_en.pdf
See also our press release published on 24 April 2008 on the European Research Area and public consultation: IP/08/637